Ravens couldn't Bungle this one

Instead of an unwanted gaze into the football abyss, the Baltimore Ravens managed to avoid the absolute inexcusable. They didn't flirt with a complete downward spiral. They wanted no parts of a travel itinerary toward Pathetic and Rebuilding Franchise Boulevard. They didn't lose to the Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore overcame the NFL's poster children for mismanagement, incompetence and contagious mistakes that nearly infected both sidelines.

Inside the Ravens' locker room following their 38-27 victory, there was an obvious absence of Kool & the Gang music, or champagne.

Sensible people don't celebrate improving to within one game of evening their record. Intelligent folks, and the Ravens (4-5) tend to be nothing but the sort, don't revel in defeating Jon Kitna, an imitation NFL passer who strongly resembles the son from "King of the Hill."

It doesn't matter that Ravens coach Brian Billick didn't conduct a real press conference afterward, exiting stage left. What was there for him to talk about?

All that matters is the win and the accompanying 2-1 AFC North mark, not style points. Not Travis Taylor's improved hands, Lamont Brightful scooting nearly to Timonium on a punt return, Adalius Thomas' athletic juggle for a defensive touchdown or Edgerton Hartwell's aggressiveness.

"Coach Billick had been talking about how the fans love what we've been doing so far, but if we lose to the Bengals..," offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "That puts a spark under your butt. When we match up better with a team, obviously, we need to win it."

Forget about rookie safety Ed Reed's Leon Lett impression on a premature interception strut that became an embarrassing fumble, or his fourth-quarter redemption with a second victimization of the inaccurate Kitna.

The win obscures allowing Corey Dillon and Chad Johnson to have their way individually, or the cluelessness of special teams coach Gary Zauner's coverage units, which

For the Ravens' quest toward contender status, beating the Bengals is a necessity, a privilege enjoyed by real football teams. It's far removed from a treat to be savored.

 Billick stayed in the interview room long enough to introduce underrated ‘Buddy Lee' defenders like stocky nose guard Kelly Gregg and Co. Billick also scoffed at whether anyone would understand the importance of the win despite the absence of All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, end Michael McCrary and cornerback Chris McAlister.

His point is valid about pass rusher Peter Boulware being the only healthy defender with starting experience beyond this season. That fact isn't being ignored and expectations haven't been inflated to an overweight balloon level.

By the way, Billick didn't stick around long enough to weigh in on whether veteran Jeff Blake should be his quarterback beyond the convalescence for Chris Redman's worrisome back condition. Relief was the dominant theme afterward.

"I can sleep better tonight," running back Jamal Lewis said.

Blake can offer a perspective on what it's like to be a Bungle, er, Bengal after his star-crossed years in the Queen City. Disgracefully inept owner Mike Brown made the mistake of dumping the strong-armed Blake.

"It's tough and it's hard to put into words," said Blake, who alternately thickened and thinned the plot at quarterback with his 103. 3 passer rating along with an inexplicable fumble. "I don't wish playing for them on anybody."

Taylor hit just the right chord of the bigger picture after the Ravens stopped skidding after losing three of their previous four games.

"It's real sweet," Taylor said. "We desperately needed a win."

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